Health Minister Stephen Donnelly (file photo) Leah Farrell/

No plan to reintroduce restrictions but Covid figures are 'very concerning', Donnelly says

Public health officials earlier today confirmed 3,726 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland.

THE LATEST COVID-19 case numbers are “very concerning” but the government is not currently contemplating re-introducing restrictions, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said.

Donnelly said the focus will instead remain on the guidelines currently in place such as Covid passes, personal hygiene and mask-wearing, as well as booster vaccines and testing.

Public health officials earlier today confirmed 3,726 new cases of Covid-19 in Ireland – the highest daily figure since 14 January.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Prime Time tonight, Donnelly said this is “a very concerning number”.

However, he added: “We’re not contemplating [reintroducing restrictions] at the moment and there is no discussion about that. Because we have a plan that we know can work.

“The government is going to deploy a lot of measures. Industry really needs to make sure that it’s compliant with the measures that are in place. And then each of us as individuals needs to push that little bit harder. We’ve done it every time before,” he said.

The minister called on the public to “do the right thing” and be responsible, citing “a relatively small increase in socialisation” as “one of the things that’s driving this increase in cases”.

When asked if the re-introduction of certain restrictions now would prevent harsher restrictions being out in place around Christmas if case numbers continue to increase, Donnelly said: “That’s not the focus right now. Because right now, that’s not what’s needed … The country has gone through a huge amount of pain and suffering and sacrifice for us to be able to open up our country.”

He added: “If we were to talk about the entertainment sector closing down again, the people in that sector – our artists, our musicians, our singers – they’ve been through so much.

“So now that finally they’ve got a chance to breathe again, and to do what they do again, we don’t want to suddenly turn around and say we’re going to have to shut things down.”

Rather than bring in additional restrictions now, he said: “We have a lot of measures we can deploy and we have behaviours which we can change.”

Emergency legislation

Speaking in the Dáil earlier, Donnelly proposed extending the emergency legislation to allow for the use of measures such as face coverings and Covid passes for another three months until 9 February.

“We’re in a place where we have to be concerned about the burden and impact that this level of disease is having and could have on social care services in the coming weeks and months. We’re already seeing the cancellation of procedures and operations across the country. And we have to be concerned that things will deteriorate further,” Donnelly said in the Dáil.

The 14-day incidence of the virus stands at 695 per 100,000, an increase of 18% on last week. As of 8am today, 493 Covid-19 patients are hospitalised, of which 90 are in ICU.

Speaking today, Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health, said: “Covid-19 is circulating widely in our community, but we have the tools to limit its spread.

“We know that vaccination is very successful at preventing severe illness and hospitalisation and I urge anyone who still needs to get their Covid vaccine to do so.

“We also know that, even when vaccinated, we still need to practice basic public health interventions – washing our hands, opening windows, wearing masks and most importantly, staying home when we have symptoms. These simple measures are very successful at breaking the chains of transmission of this disease.

“As we practice all elements of the public health advice, we keep ourselves, and our communities safe.”

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